March 14, 2006


New 'cold war' looms with Iran (Paul Reynolds, 3/14/06, , BBC News)

The United States is developing the concept of a "cold war" with Iran.

It would be a third way between trying to engage with the hard-line government there and attacking its nuclear facilities with the risk of major conflict.

The idea is that regime or policy change could be effected by the Iranian people themselves.

However such a cold war might turn into a hot war if Washington decided this approach would not stop Iran from developing the technology needed for a nuclear bomb. [...]

President George W Bush himself heralded the Iran policy in his State of the Union speech in January, when he said: "Our nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran."

That in turn followed his mission statement in November 2003 that he would promote "democracy and freedom in the Middle East".

But the policy is also born of political disagreement in the Bush administration about the way forward.

The old policy of engagement with Iran has run into the ground.

Even its advocates accept that they cannot get round the problem of Iran's method of government. Senior ayatollahs have a veto on reform and blocked reformist candidates in last year's election.

At the other end of the spectrum, those favouring military strikes against Iranian nuclear installations are having trouble in justifying a policy which would have huge consequences, adding to the problems the US is already facing in Iraq.

The third way is led by the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice herself.

According to the Washington Post, Iran has "vaulted to the front of the US national security agenda".

Ms Rice is, like Mr Straw, trying to draw a distinction between the Iranian government and people.

"Our problem is with the Iranian regime," she said to senators recently.

Iran's president is playing a weak hand (Stanley A. Weiss, , MARCH 14, 2006 , International Herald Tribune)
Myth: Ahmadinejad's "landslide" win reflects the aspirations of Iranians. In the first round of voting last spring, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, the centrist former president, received more votes than Ahmadinejad. Faced with the lesser of two evils, most Iranians boycotted the runoff, allowing Ahmadinejad, who campaigned as an anti-corruption populist, to claim victory thanks to mere third of eligible voters. Some mandate.

Myth: All power now rests with a united clerical regime. The regime is rife with institutional divisions and personal rivalries. Under the Iranian constitution, absolute power still rests with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who may fear a challenge to his authority from the radical Ayatollah Mohammed Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor.

Khamenei and the clerical elite already seem, to be tightening the screws on the new president. Parliament rejected Ahmadinejad's first three nominees for oil minister, and Khamenei has given the Expediency Council, which is headed by Rafsanjani, new authority to supervise Ahmadinejad's administration. [...]

Faced with these realities, it's time for Washington to call Ahmadinejad's bluff by playing the card the hard-liners fear most: a dramatic U.S. offer of reconciliation, including a security guarantee like that offered North Korea. Such a move would expose the rifts in the regime, deny the hard-liners the confrontation they court, and deprive the bankrupt revolutionaries of their Great Satan.

As he did in Palestine and Reagan did in the USSR, the President needs to go over the head of Ahmadinejad and company and treat the regime as a failure just awaiting inevitable liberalization, at which point we'll be waiting to help our Iranian friends rebuild.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 14, 2006 11:52 AM

It would have been helpful if we'd taken this approach more coherrently sooner. Now, I fear it's too late and we'll have to bomb them and deal with the military consequences in Iraq and the region. I'm not sold on there being hard and soft liners in the government but I agree that the people want something other than theocracy and crave normalized relations with the world.

Posted by: JAB at March 14, 2006 12:09 PM

The tell here is the reference to Rafsanjani as a centrist. Rafsanjani was the first Iranian official to say, at least for international consumption, that it would be glorious to have an Iranian nuke to use against Israel. Regardless of whether we like the people and the people like us, it is the government that will have the bomb and that's what we've got to deal with.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 14, 2006 12:15 PM

"...allowing Ahmadinejad, who campaigned as an anti-corruption populist, to claim victory thanks to mere third of eligible voters. Some mandate."

Yawn. What fraction of elegible voters do US Presidents typically win?

Of course, the difference is that people who sit out a legitimate democratic election are saying that they are indifferent to who wins. People (such as the majority of Iranians) who sit out a fraudulent "election" are not necessarily saying the same thing at all...

Posted by: b at March 14, 2006 12:25 PM

David - Exactly. The delusive people who imagine terror-sponsoring dictators as reasonable, moderate people are no help in solving this problem.

Posted by: pj at March 14, 2006 12:33 PM

Mr Weiss advises that we play the vaunted Clinton card, which has proved so successful in happy North Korea.

Posted by: ed at March 14, 2006 2:30 PM

If Iran goes democratic, Amadinejad will gain absolute power.

Posted by: Bartelson at March 14, 2006 8:11 PM

Iran is democratic. He can't even win re-election.

Posted by: oj at March 14, 2006 9:17 PM

Uh, Mr. Rose-Colored Spectacles, I think the point is that he doesn't want (to have) to. Now maybe Khameini's goons are badder than Ahmadinejad's goons, and your hopes will be validated. But that is a slender reed to lean on when the wind starts really blowing. And if all the goons are on the same team, what then?

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 15, 2006 11:16 AM


Then we crush them all--big deal?

Posted by: oj at March 15, 2006 11:43 AM

Good - you're adapting.

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 15, 2006 11:47 AM



Posted by: oj at March 15, 2006 12:01 PM

The Iranian regime seems to be givin the president a rough time. The revolution of the Grand Ayatulah Ruhullah is spreading now and has started to reach parts of the USA. I think its time for the great satan to fry ;)

Posted by: Shane at April 3, 2006 11:57 PM

I think Ahmedinejad is a remarkable felloe. I've done some research on him and he has a really decent record compared to our American aristocrats. One of the largest oil producing countries has a president who earns only a teacher's salary, drives a 1980s model car has a perfect family and he seems to be makin the zionist regime n the American regime cry like a baby in front of the UN:P

Posted by: Albert at April 4, 2006 12:03 AM

Rough time? They're tanking their own economy and we can take out the nuke program at will.

Posted by: oj at April 4, 2006 12:04 AM


Even Ayatollah Khamenei is trying to get rid of him. He's a lightweight kook.

Posted by: oj at April 4, 2006 12:08 AM